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How to get the best results from data visualisation

Thursday 13 December 2018 Data Insight & AnalyticsData Visualisation

Jenny Collins and Laura Walker's picture
By Jenny Collins and Laura Walker

Data visualisation is contininuing to be a crucial role in marketers' tool kits, helping them explain complex ideas. Today, companies are wrangling more and more data to help them make smarter decisions. 

From our work with hundreds of brands across the UK and beyond, we believe that any data visualisation initiative should adhere to three core principles:

It must be engaging. Your user must immediately understand what they are looking at, and see at a glance what information is being communicated. That’s all about choosing the right aesthetic approach for the data you’re visualising.

It must be insightful. You can use tools to turn data into charts, graphs and other types of pictorial representation, but without context and interpretation, your audience won’t know what those representations mean for their line of business or department.

It must be actionable. You want your data visualisation to drive change and improvement, so your audience needs to understand what action they should take as a result of seeing it.



How to create a visualisation that works

To create a visualisation that has those three characteristics, you have to approach the project in the right way. Lots of people start by trying to choose a visualisation tool - which is indeed an important decision, but not the best place to start. 

Here’s the process we use to get the best results from our visualisation projects:


  1. Establish what you’re trying to achieve. Which commercial objectives is the visualisation designed to help with, what kind of insight do you want it to reveal, and what kind of action do you want it to drive?
  1. Ensure you have the right data. A visualisation based on incomplete or inaccurate data is no use to anyone. It’s critical to prepare your data meticulously before you start on any visualisation project. Make sure the data you’re going to use is the right data, that you have all of it, and that it’s clean, accurate and available.
  1. Interpret the data. This is about ensuring you’re able to understand what the data is telling you and interpret the results of any analysis that has taken place - therefore being able to draw out meaningful insight.
  1. Identify your audience. Who’s going to use the visualisation? That helps to determine what metrics to include, as well as the format they’re most likely to be receptive to. For example, a visualisation for an operational-level team will probably be quite data-heavy, while an exec-level summary is likely to include more visual elements and high-level key metrics. 
  1. Determine key metrics. Which metrics are most important for your audience and which data will you use to display this.
  1. Choose a visualisation tool. Here’s the point at which you use all the decisions you’ve made so far to determine the best tool, software or format to deliver the visualisation. 


Together, these six steps represent the core work of any visualisation project, and it’s essential to get them right. 

At CACI, we spend about 75% of any visualisation project on these preparation stages, to ensure that the resulting visualisation is as accurate and insightful as possible.

Once you’ve done the prep work, you can move on to the visualisation stage. At CACI, we use wireframes to mock-up the design concept for our clients to review before we develop the full visualisation.  It’s a good way to road-test your concept with key stakeholders, and stops you getting a long way into production before realising it’s not the right approach for your audience.

If you have any questions or would like to know more about visualising your data, get in touch.

Our experts, Jenny and Laura, share the process they follow for engaging, insightful and actionable data visualisation.

How to get the best results from data visualisation